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Water main replacement project progressing down Greater Mack

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 11, 2015


While neighbors have been living with dirt and dust for months, the city said that the new way of replacing a water main is actually causing less of a disruption than the old method would have.

“It’s a different style of work than we’ve done before on a water main,” said Department of Public Works Director Bryan Babcock Nov. 3. “We’re pulling a new 8-inch water main through an old water main. It’s increasing the capacity of the pipe and we’re able to pull about 1,200 feet of water main at a time.”

In August, City Council approved the bid that would replace three water main lines in the city — the first being on Greater Mack Avenue from 12 Mile to 13 Mile roads.

In the past, replacing a water main with a cast iron pipe required excavation 5 feet down the entire length of the pipe, which was laid in sections. But these projects are using plastic pipe with pipe bursting technology, which is supposed to cause less inconvenience for residents because, instead of having to dig up an entire line, workers only have to dig in one spot at each home to connect its water line to the main.

Greater Mack resident Mike Darowski said that having the road in front of him closed at times or reduced to one lane intermittently hasn’t been that big of a problem, mostly because he lives on a corner so he can take a side street down to Jefferson Avenue.

But while he and several other residents mentioned that they had been told by workers that the project is running a month behind, Babcock said that’s not the case.

“I don’t believe we’re behind schedule at all,” he said. “I would say within the next couple weeks we should be starting to wrap up that project. As we progress south, we’re also able to repair any concrete that’s needed north of where we are.

“There’s much less excavating, much less concrete work to do, and we’re also saving a number of trees that (would) have had to be taken out. I think it’s been going really well.”

Bob Reinhold, who lives on Greater Mack north of 12 Mile, said he has been impressed with how well the work crews are cleaning things up as they move along.

“It’s a guessing game every day as to which street you can grab,” he said. “You have to have a little patience.

“A lot of people are griping about the ugliness, but that pipe was 60 years old.”

He said there were at least a half-dozen water main breaks on the road last winter, which is also a large inconvenience, so he doesn’t mind putting up with the inconvenience of construction right now.

“It’s an inconvenience, but what are you going to do? We deal with it,” he said Nov. 3.

As work progresses, Babcock said, the new water main is flushed of any sediment and chlorinated, then the water and pressure is tested.

“Once the water main passes all of those tests, then we start hooking up the individual homes to it,” he said.

The city has never used the pipe bursting technology on a water main replacement before, only on sewer pipes, but Babcock said it was a cost-effective option. There are still two streets on the schedule to be replaced this year — Salisbury from Beaconsfield east to Interstate 94, and Euclid from Greater Mack to Harper avenues — but he said the Salisbury project may get moved to the spring of 2016.

“We’re looking at the weather and seeing if we can start another street,” he said. “Greater Mack will be done this season.

“Next summer, we have a number of water mains we need to replace as well. We’ll definitely be exploring this type of work.”